Bible Prophecy - Where to Begin?
Friday, September 18, 2009
It is all happenning!
By Edward Wood
It has been said that 25% of the Bible is comprised of prophecy in one manner or another. Considering the length of the Bible, anyone who wishes to begin an exploration of this subject, might wonder just where to start. I know I did. Interestingly enough, the answer was not long in coming. Now this in no way should be construed as some kind of inherent brilliance on my part but should instead be looked upon as a practical example of what James said: [James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
In other words, any wisdom you might find here isn't generated from yours truly. Next, I strongly urge you to do your own homework and arrive at your own conclusions not only on what you read here, but on any commentary regarding Scripture. Why? Because Paul reminds us that "we see through a glass darkly" (1 Cor. 13:11-12) - even the greatest of Bible scholars. As a layman with no formal Bible training, I'm sure this adds more layers of tint to my particular glass, making this advice even more relevant in the present circumstances. This being said, let's proceed. So, then, where is a good place to begin to study Bible Prophecy? My personal answer - the Olivet Discourse. From this last of Jesus' public sermons, his followers, including us, are given a broad view of the future. Some think that the events described have already happened. In fact, there are even those who have the view that all Bible prophecy has been fulfilled, culminating with the invasion of Jerusalem, circa 70 A.D.
Others believe that the Bible's prophetic pronouncements are allegorical. While it is true that a great deal of symbolism occurs in such great books as Daniel and Revelation, the Olivet Discourse is direct and clear. I believe that the Lord meant exactly what he said. It is from that basis I will attempt to present an overview of its contents. I do recommend you read Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 yourself before proceeding. It will greatly help you follow along.
Intriguingly Olivet's physical location ties together accounts of Jesus' return to Earth in the Old and New Testaments. The words he himself spoke likewise connect the essentials of Old and New Testament prophecy as well. Let's now look at the highlights of the Olivet Discourse and see where they lead. Since on occasion events are repeated in more than one place throughout Jesus' address, I'll endeavor to present them topically.
Olivet would no doubt be remembered in history alone for what Jesus said there almost 2000 years ago. but there is much more to the story than that. In fact, a little over forty days from the time he gave his discourse it would also be the scene of his last post-resurrection appearance to most of those very same people!
From there they would watch in awe as he rode into the clouds, with two men "in white apparel" promising them that he would return in the same manner (Acts 1:1-12). But this isn't all. In Zechariah, chapter 14, we read how the Lord's return to Olivet at the end of this age will bring incredible changes to our world for all time!
The Mount of Olives stands east of Jerusalem overlooking the city from which vantage point the temple which had been rebuilt to magnificent splendor by the volatile and often ruthless Herod the Great in an attempt to curry favor from the populace. His being appointed by Rome to this position and being descended from the Judean's traditional adversaries the Edomites engendered no shortage of resentment from his subjects. Yet despite his character flaws, he was a master builder and the temple was the crown jewel of his accomplishments. It had been described from those of that time as often glowing in gleaming splendor in the Judean sunlight.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke record that the first thing that Jesus revealed was that the temple which so impressed his audience would one day no longer exist. His listeners must have been incredulous as they looked down upon its immensity and grandeur from the Mount of Olives. How could such a structure be so destroyed that there would not be "one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Matt. 24:1-2)? It must have been as unbelievable to them as the thought that our own World Trade Towers would crumble to the ground as a result of a terrorist attack on 9-11 was prior to that terrible event. But it happened all the same.
This was not the first time the temple would fall. Almost 600 years earlier Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian forces destroyed Jerusalem and everything in it, temple included. What Jesus described was to occur exactly as he related almost forty years later. When Titus' Roman Legion finally broke into the city, the historian Josephus recorded that even he couldn't stop his troops from setting this grand structure on fire. Its huge porous limestone blocks exploded from the moisture within them as it turned to steam. As if that wasn't enough, the soldiers pried part the wreckage to get at the gold with which it had been adorned that had melted and flowed down into the ruins.
From this point on. Jesus spoke of events that are future even to our time, but, I believe, are very close at hand. I think you will find many of them are now sounding very familiar in our Twenty-first Century World. The very next thing Jesus warned of was the coming of false prophets. One of the biggest problems of the early church was this very problem. (See Acts 13:1-11; 2 Cor. 11:12-26; Galatians 2:1-5; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1-6.) It still is today, and, in my opinion, is getting much worse.
I personally have watched the particular denomination of which I had belonged give its blessing to actively homosexual clergy, denies Jesus as the only means of salvation, and select for itself clerical and lay leaders that are telling people only what they want to hear. It is like watching Paul's words to his young protégé' Timothy come true before one's own eyes across many of the largest denominations (1 Timothy 4:1-4).This action will all intensify and culminate in the advent of the Antichrist (Daniel 8:23-25; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; Rev. 17:7-17, 19:11-21). The fall of the western church to false doctrine in the past few decades is not only rendering it incapable of standing against the growing forces of darkness but actually aiding them.
The Lord related that famines would come. The population of our planet stands near seven billion, a large percentage of which go to bed hungry every night. Recently there are ominous signs that it could get worse very quickly. As I write, there is a potential for the Ug-99 wheat fungus to devastate 80% of the world's wheat if it should manage to spread around the globe. In this case, the warning given on Olivet might very well be pointing to the Black Horse of Revelation 6:5-6 wherein a measure (quart) of wheat or three of barley cost a penny, or denarius, depending on which Bible translation you are using. This doesn't mean much to our modern ears unless we understand that the denarius was a day's wages to a common laborer (Matt. 20:1-16), and that a measure of wheat or three of barley were considered the minimum dietary requirement for a person of those times. In other words, there will come a time when a person's entire income will be needed to buy enough food to survive. The passage continues with "the oil and wine" not being harmed. I've heard various interpretations of this but the one that seems to make sense is that these last two items were commodities of the rich. Is it possible that this points to a time when most people will suffer while the wealthy continue to live opulently? Does this sound awfully familiar? Notice how Jesus' words link us to an event written by John in Revelation sixty years later about something that hasn't even happened in our time, but one in which we are beginning to see the manner in which it can.
Along with famines, Jesus told of the coming pestilences and earthquakes. It is hard to imagine any other time in human history when we have seen so much of both! About thirty years ago HIV-AIDS exploded across our world and is still running rampant, especially in Africa. I personally can't remember any communicable affliction ever existing which has had such a wide range, lasted so long, or resisted a cure. In affluent societies such as the United States, the main vectors are drug use and fornication, the details of the latter I'm sure you already know. I've heard many say it's a "judgment" disease because of this. Well, knowing that God is a loving God, I'm pretty sure he didn't create HIV. But whenever people disregard his rules of living and push him out of their lives, how can they expect him to protect them from the consequences of their own free will?
Regarding earthquakes, a visit to the United States Geological Survey website is most revealing. I decided to count only the larger quakes of Richter Scale magnitude 6.0 and above. Until the turn of this century, most years had less than six per year, with only sporadic counts of ten or twelve. Since 2002, the numbers I got ranged from 22 for that year up to a high of 47 in 2007! Even 2008 had 35! As I write, the count for 2009 is already over 20. Being human, my counts might not be perfect but even so it is clear that geologically speaking, it is no longer "business as usual" for Planet Earth.
Jesus predicted that Christians would again be persecuted, that even people within families would betray each other. This is already well under way throughout the world where being a follower of Christ can get one killed in some regions. In fact, he said that people in general would become more cruel in the End Times, that their "love would wax cold." When one sees regularly the increase and appalling viciousness of crimes being committed even within the United States, it makes one wonder just what is going on. In Romans 1:19-32, Paul presents a sobering description so accurate of the way people will become as this age winds down that it is hard to escape the fact that we must indeed be very close to the end. Jesus said that as the time of the end draws near, the Gospel would be preached "in all the world." Isn't it fascinating that our present-day technology has made this literally possible instantly anywhere on the planet? In addition to this even as the Tribulation is well under way, God will employ an angel to preach the "everlasting gospel" to all nations in every language (Rev. 14:6). I believe that this proves God will go to every length he can to get his message out. Anyone who chooses to ignore it will therefore have no excuse for the judgment that will fall upon them.
The Lord spoke of military conflicts that would come. Did you know that the Twentieth Century had more casualties due to war than any other time in human history? When was the last time you watched the news on TV or read your paper without reports of some conflict somewhere? The stakes grow higher each day as more and more very bad people gain access to more and more very bad weapons. One day it will all come to a head on the Plain of Esdraelon which lies below a place called Har (Mount) Megiddo - otherwise known as Armageddon (Rev. 16:13-15)!
Regarding the author of this ultimate battle mentioned above, Jesus provides an important clue as to the means by which to identify him in Matthew and Mark's accounts. When the "abomination of desolation" appears in the "holy place," this will be a sign for the people of Judea to "flee to the mountains." Daniel tells us who it is that will do this (Daniel 9:27). Referred to variously as the "king of fierce countenance" (Daniel 8:23), "son of perdition" (2 Thess. 2:3), "that Wicked" (2 Thess.:2-3), and the "beast" (Revelation, particularly chapters 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, and 20), this man will embody the worst of every despot that has ever walked on this planet. In common parlance he is best known as the "Antichrist."
Satan has always wanted to be "god" and this man will have access to demonic power to do whatever is necessary for the devil to accomplish this goal. One day the war will come which will cause all prior military campaigns to pale in comparison when the Antichrist gathers the armies of the world to attempt to carry out the "Final Solution" against the Jews that the pharaoh of Moses' time, Haman, and Hitler had also attempted.
But why have so many tried to wipe out a people who, except for relatively short periods, have been virtually powerless? Well, just suppose the pharaoh (Exodus), Haman (Esther), or Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah, Daniel) had succeeded in making the Hebrews cease to exist. In such a case the tribe of Judah would have disappeared into history and with it King David and his descendant Jesus of Nazareth. But since these men failed, Jesus has indeed come and with him the only sacrifice God could accept to save us all. Satan's only chance remaining is to prevent the prophecies of the Bible regarding Israel to ultimately fulfill its role in becoming the pre-eminent nation of the millennial age to come (Zech. 8:23, 12:5-10, 13:1, 14:1-20). Adolf Hitler, who was very much a type of the coming Antichrist, was well on the way to doing just that.
The "son of perdition" will be Satan's last shot at accomplishing that goal. But he will not succeed, either. As his forces are about to capture the entirety of Jerusalem, they are stopped by the return of Jesus Christ himself in a cloud accompanied by the "host" or armies of heaven (Zech. 1:1-3, Luke 21:26-27, Rev. chapter 19). From that moment on, everything will change. The Antichrist and his false prophet henchman will be cast into the lake of fire while his army is routed. Satan will be locked away for 1000 years during which time Jesus will personally establish and rule his Millennial Kingdom.
As magnificent as this time will be, it will be followed by a final disposition of Satan, his demons, and all who refused God's offer of salvation throughout all ages as they are themselves cast eternally into the lake of fire. Now with all traces of evil forever banished, God will create a new everlasting heaven and Earth in which he will come with his city, the New Jerusalem, to dwell among humankind for all time (Rev. chapters 20-22).
I'll conclude our exploration by telling you that I believe in a Pre-Tribulation rapture. Out of all the other possibilities, it seems best to explain the apparent contradiction of Jesus returning completely unexpectedly "as a thief" (Rev. 3:3) and then an exact time of his coming being given three and a half years after the erecting of the "abomination of desolation" in the rebuilt temple's "holy place" (Daniel 12:7-12, Rev. 12:14) when the persecution of God's people ends - no doubt by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The rapture of the church will be totally unexpected and virtually instantaneous (1 Cor. 15:51-53). The Second Coming three and a half years after the "holy place" is defiled will be seen by the whole world (Luke 17:24, Rev. 19:11-21).
There are several more passages that I find further support the Pre-Trib scenario: [Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.] Though other versions of the Bible have varying translations of this verse, this from King James is very accurate. It suggests in clear terms that there is a means of escape before the Tribulation. Belief in Jesus is what makes us "worthy."
[1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivers us from the wrath to come.
Though Paul was speaking to those who had turned from idolatry in his day, how much more applicable are these words to the believers of today! [Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
These words by Jesus were originally intended for the Apostle John be conveyed to the faithful Asia Minor church of Philadelphia. Many believe this church is also representative of the "true church" of all times comprised of all faithful believers in Christ which will allow them to escape the "hour of temptation" (trial) which will come upon all the world. This certainly sounds like the Tribulation to me!
Since this obviously hasn't happened yet, it must be something which is yet to come. If, therefore, you are a believer in Jesus, you are a "Philadelphian" and this promise is for YOU! This means that there lies just up ahead a destiny for us that exceed our wildest dreams and our greatest hopes. You mansion is already being built in the New Jerusalem and before long it'll be Moving Day (John 14:1-3).